Meet the Minds – Tim Mutton

August 22, 2018
Tim Mutton

Photos: Recent Projects

Though Tim Mutton has always had a penchant for great design, it took him some time to find his foothold in the industry. He was asked to leave school, finding work in a restaurant, which “I absolutely loved,” he says. It was a turning point for Mutton, who started to appreciate the value of good old-fashioned hospitality. Soon, he was back at art school, struggling to take it seriously until he found design. He cut his teeth with Sir Terence Conran, which eventually led to launching the aptly named Blacksheep in 2002, specializing in F&B with a multidisciplinary approach. He “doesn’t do it for the money, as the creative community is one charged with spiritual profit,” he says. Here, he talks about his first time aboard a Boeing 747, crafting inspiring F&B projects, and the benefits of being an eternal dreamer.

Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
I completely fell into it. At school I had no idea that a world of creativity and design existed. The closest I ever came to it was when I thought I could be an artist or an architect. However, all the artists we were taught about in class were tortured individuals and I was always told I wasn’t clever enough to be an architect.

What are some of your first memories of design?
My father was connected to the aviation industry, so I was very fortunate to be taken aboard on a Boeing 747 jumbo jet at a very young age. It was the first time I was struck by an overpowering design experience that had been crafted so beautifully and functionally—even the name of the aircraft optimizes its size and superiority. I was awestruck with every aspect of this magnificent aircraft. The whole idea of a staircase ascending into First Class was a masterstroke. The emotional attachment I had with that very first journey still lives with me as I reenact the disappointment of reaching the other side and having to disembark. The yearning to return to an experience is something I look for in the F&B experience we create to this day.

Did where you grew up influence your career path?
We moved around a lot, practically every two years. I was born in England, we then moved to Germany, the U.S., back to England, and then Scotland. One of the most magical places we lived was in the Shetland Isles above an old whaling village. The sense of freedom, adventure, and the strong connection to nature was unparalleled. I would spend hours building dams on the beach and looking over cliff edges for stranded sheep trying to rescue them. I would lose myself in imaginary settings and stories, being the eternal dreamer and drawer. My appreciation of building and space was expanded as I played around the building site of what was to finally become our family home, which my parents built themselves. That may have contributed or played its part toward my spatial awareness.

Can you discuss some of your recent projects?
We have a wide range of exciting projects, from creating a new boutique cinema brand in Kuwait; a new international store in Dubai for an established European FMCG chocolate wafer brand; and a new boutique 120-bedroom hotel in Krakow, where we have created everything: the name of the property, three of the F&B offerings, a spa, a gym, and meeting and event spaces. I’m particularly proud that we have designed all the guestrooms, which was a healthy challenge for us.

Is there a challenging project that you are especially proud of?
I feel the studio is on a new trajectory, particularly after recently completing the Hyundai Card Cooking Library in Seoul. We were extremely humbled and privileged to have been contacted to complete the last in the series of bespoke Hyundai Card membership experiences, establishing us alongside some of the more widely known international design studio alumni.

What are the most challenging and exciting aspects of your job?
I enjoy attracting raw talent and seeing them grow into well-rounded, extraordinary designers with a deep and personal intrinsic flair for F&B design. Knowing that I have contributed to this ecosystem fills me with a great sense of purpose, even though on occasions I may catch myself and still doubt myself.

What is the most important thing to remember when designing a restaurant?
Using your emotional intelligence to create an atmosphere and bring about a distinctive and repeatable experience, and above all, to have fun.

What would be your dream project and why?
I’d love to work with LVMH on one of its new wines or spirit brands to create the whole experience—the architecture, visitor experience, the brand, and graphic identity, particularly the wine label, stay lodges, uniforms, and the restaurant.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it, be?
I’d have a festival with everyone who has contributed, coached, and facilitated my ups, downs, and indifferences. I’d invite some of my favorite chefs—Thomas Keller, Nathan Outlaw, Neil Rankin, and Jiro Ono—to organize the food while the stage would host Prince, the Rolling Stones, the Roots, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be doing?
A farmer or an explorer. I’m still working toward this so designer, farmer, and explorer can be chiseled on my tombstone!